In 2008, Collin Mooney set a single-season West Point record by amassing 1,339 yards on the ground. He also ranked 13th in the country in rushing yards per game (111.6). And, to top it off, he became the first and only player in school history to run for 170 or more yards in three straight contests.
Despite these accomplishments, Mooney, who fulfilled his active duty commitment to the U.S. Army after graduation, knew he'd have to change his approach to make it in the NFL. So he shifted his focus to blocking — a decision that, eventually, proved to be worthwhile.
The Texas native went undrafted and landed with the Titans in 2012, not as a halfback, but as a fullback. First he was waived; then he joined the practice squad; then, after his fair share of ups and downs, made it onto Tennessee's active roster. And he didn't disappoint: Pro Football Focus gave him an 8.3 cumulative grade in 2013, the third highest mark among qualifying FBs.
The Falcons' 2016 roster is constantly evolving and we've amassed all the players in one gallery that will be updated throughout the year
Now a Falcon, Mooney has an opportunity to expand upon the role her carved out in Nashville.
"I'm fitting in well," he said. "Coach (Dan Quinn) just wants us to compete and give effort, so I'm coming out here and that's what I'm trying to do.
"I knew coming into the league my role would be as a blocking back. I had no problem with that. I want to do whatever I can to help the team and protect those running backs. That's No. 1, that's paramount for me. If I can do my job, they can do their job. Making them look good is what I want to do."
It's far too early to know how the Falcons' rushing attack will perform 2015, but there are lots of reasons to be optimistic.
Second-year pro Devonta Freeman looks ready to take the next step. Third round pick Tevin Coleman, who enjoyed a dominant senior campaign at Indiana, has loads of potential. Additionally, Kyle Shanahan's zone blocking scheme has a well-documented history of success in the running game.
The fullback situation, however, is somewhat unclear. If Mooney can step up and be a consistent, reliable force, it would go a long way towards building an effective offense.
"Love the system so far. It's been great," he said. "It's fast, guys are moving around fast, and I think that's good. From the O-line to the backs, to get outside you have to be fast off the ball and get that edge. That's what we're working on now."
Although the Falcons have high hopes for Mooney, a job is far from guaranteed. Patrick DiMarco is also in the mix, and in today's NFL, organizations don't exactly stock the cupboard with fullbacks.
The battle between these two is shaping up to be a good one, and Mooney thinks he has a unique edge: While the 5-foot-10, 238-pounder isn't bound to get many (if any) carries, he believes his experience in college offered some useful perspective.
The Falcons second week of organized team activities began Tuesday in Flowery Branch. The team hit fields for workouts in the morning.
"Having run the ball a lot, it gave me an advantage because I know what running backs are looking for, where they want the fullback to fit, what kind of blocks they want," Mooney said. "It's a mental advantage, at least."
Still, DiMarco is a talented in his own right and has value on special teams. He and Mooney seem to enjoy challenging each other, which, in the end, can only be good for the Falcons.
"Iron sharpens iron," Mooney said. "We're making each other better, we're competing every day. You have to realize that in the NFL, you're always going to be competing with somebody — even if that guy isn't here right now, you're competing with that guy. We understand that and we're to get each other better and getting ready to play. We're not worried about who's what — we're just trying to help this team win."